Well, let's see: we're still at war in Iraq, we are (rightly) worrying about a nuclear capability in Iran, we're unable to compete in the international labor market, we are facing unprecedented trade and budget deficits as well as federal entitlement programs certain to run out of money in the next few decades, and we are experiencing unprecedented crude oil prices. Our response? Our duly elected officials in Washington are debating gay marriage and flag-burning. I cannot imagine that any responsible citizen, either on the right or the left (there no longer appears to be much of a center) does not find this disgraceful. And yet, somehow, we demand nothing more of those who, ostensibly, depend upon our votes, in order to take their seats in the Congress and the Oval Office. It frankly does not matter, at least to me, whether one supports or opposes gay marriage.
Firstly, it is not, in the judgment of this writer, a federal issue. Secondly, and more fundamentally, this boat has sailed. Whichever side of the question upon which any of us finds himself or herself, the societal legitimation of homosexual marriage is inevitable, and its opponents ought to stop "shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic." One who is opposed to gay marriage always retains the option to subscribe to a religious group (Orthodox Judaism and Roman Catholicism, for example, spring to mind), in which gay marriage is not on the radar screen and the religious representatives of those movements will not, anytime soon, likely be called upon to sanctify such a union. As citizens of a secular state, however, we ought to find it easy to see which way the wind is blowing.
The extent to which our secular society is bound up with the Judeo-Christian ethic has not been a constant, and has waxed and waned over time, for better, or worse. Flag burning?! Is this really even an issue? Is there much of it going on? Come now, fellow citizens, we've got real problems in this country! Is it possible that these two "huge" national questions have been entirely manufactured for the benefit of the public and to divert our attention away from a more substantive national agenda? Or is that just cynicism? We have already lost our preeminence in manufacturing and are well on our way to losing our last remaining economic clout on the international stage: as the world's largest consumer market. China is destined, in the not-too-distant future, to overtake us, by virtue of its sheer numbers, coupled with an ever-expanding economy. We no longer make anything of consequence here, mostly because of prohibitively high labor costs. So we are, at this stage, largely running on a service economy. But an international financial engine built entirely upon lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers and even investment bankers, is not what built the American Empire, and it will certainly not sustain it.
We need, more than anything else, to figure out how to get back in the game, assuming that it is still possible for us to do so. On the international political front, we need to focus on resolving things in the Middle East, both in Iraq and Iran and with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It goes without saying that this is linked to the question of oil prices, and our national irresponsibility in forgetting the lessons we should have learned in the 1970's is inexcusable. Only now, in the last few months, have we been hearing, for the first time in many years, about alternative energy sources, hybrid automobile engines, smaller cars, carpooling, etc. The rest of the world has been dealing with these kinds of oil prices for many years.
Yet we seem to think we have a God-given right to cheap oil. Shame on us! We need to formulate solutions for Africa, and to address the horrors which would keep us awake nightly, if only we and our national media would pay attention. These are only examples of a laundry list of world problems that ought to be vying for our increasingly short attention span.
None of these issues is susceptible to an easy fix. They will, alas, require bipartisan effort and good will-a daunting challenge in an era of mutual recrimination and, frankly, inter-Party loathing in Washington. I stated earlier that it appears that there is no "center" left in this country. I think that is true among our representatives, but I pray it is not true of our electorate. Absolutely nothing is going to change unless the American People demand it. So let's demand it.
Otherwise, we face the prospect of living in a country torn apart by pseudo-social issues and the question of protecting a flag which will decline in direct proportion to that for which the flag stands. Copyright 2006 Warren R. Graham.
Warren R. Graham is an attorney. http://warrenrgrahamlegal.blogspot.com